Asking your ERP system for answers that drive business value
Author: Support Consultant – Chau So
BI solutions help drive your business towards realizing greater operational improvements. In order to achieve ongoing and consistent enhancement of the business’ functions and processes, it’s important to ask questions relevant to the key areas of the business.
When asking our initial questions, most typically seek the information given to them by standard reports that are commonly available, or “out-of-the-box” with whatever software is in use. While this might be beneficial in a wide variety of cases, we will certainly encounter limitations, as the majority of software provide reports that are usually only geared towards providing a general overview. If your business requires a unique set of information, the standard set of questions may not return suitable answers that allow for a greater level of insight.
The first question
The first step forward is to ask a question. Typically, questions would focus first on the key business areas, keeping in mind the critical successful factors required for your business. Without an initial question, a progressive path forward cannot be created. Some questions may also lead to more questions, but fortunately, as the saying goes, practice make perfect. Ultimately, the more questions you ask, the better you become at finding and interpreting the answers as time goes on.
What could these questions look like?
Perhaps a first question could be, “How many customers had their orders delivered on time, and if so when?”
Start with small but impactful questions critical to the sustainability of the business.
Some questions to begin with
Product Pricing – Does the pricing of a key product correlate with certain customers, and was the gross margin consistent between them? How can this information be extracted and presented?
Inventory – How much is the value of stock if an exercise is run to set aside some products for promotion? What inventory would need to be issued quickly when a supplier ends the supplies permanently? How would you link or tag such scenarios to the set of inventory that is possibly faced with these challenges?
Time to deliver – How many orders were delivered on time to customers over a certain period? How many were late, and which area is likely have been responsible for this issue?
Cost and budget control – What are the numbers of purchase orders that are still on order and have past the due date for this month? How many approvals were made last week, in comparison to the beginning of the month, and which ones should be explored for improvement?
Prioritising your questions
Consider below, which would you prioritise?
- Where would you find the data source pertaining to you question?
- Does your current ERP system store data structurally and can it be extracted?
- How long you do you want the data to be constantly available to answer the question?
- How often should the data be refreshed to provide new insights and answers?
- Who are the users who should be accessing the data?Would the information that is extracted be easily understood and intuitive?
- Can the ERP system be easily staged and is it easily ready for modelling the question?
Is your ERP answering the right questions?
Can you say that your ERP system is answering your unique questions? Are your questions in fact the right questions to ask? If you’re not sure, perhaps now is the time to look closely at the internal questioning processes of your organization, as well as the reporting capabilities of your ERP.
If you have islands of reporting from loose sets of worksheets, it’s the right time to consolidate them using single BI data source and move to one version of the truth.
Do you need a readily off-the-shelf BI data source that will put you in an advantageous position? Our IBM Cognos BI platform is easy to use and can guide you towards the right answers using data discovery and analytics.